The school announced last week that its 6,900- square-foot cafeteria is now the William W. Perkins Student Café.
“I was kind of in shock,” said William (Bill) Perkins, who retired last year after 33 years in education. “The superintendent and I go way back, and sometimes we pull each other’s leg… this totally came out of the blue, I had no idea.”
The ceremony on Sept. 22 was attended by more than 50 people, including school board members, parents, teachers, and past and present students at the school.
Perkins’ grandchildren led the Pledge of Allegiance shortly before students from Exeter High School’s music department sang “Memories” by Maroon 5 in tribute to Perkins’ service to the school.
Throughout his years at the Cooperative Middle School (CMS), Perkins has received recognition for his service with many awards, which include the Joan and Dick Eustis Award in 2014 and the Champion for Children Award in 2022.
A ‘well-deserved honor’
Helen Joyce, chair of the Exeter Region Cooperative School Board, said the middle school renovation would not have been possible without Perkins’s efforts.
“Tonight, is the culmination of all of this, look around you in this cafeteria,” said Joyce. “Take a look at the work that he did as chair of the Building Committee to make this renovation possible.”
Paul Bauer, vice chair of the Exeter Region Cooperative School Board and chairman of the Facilities Committee, said it is a “well-deserved honor” for Perkins.
“Bill Perkins has meant so much to this school community and so much to this building,” said Bauer. “He made a positive impact on his colleagues and students alike and that positive impact will continue to be felt in perpetuity — with his name outside the cafeteria going forward.”
Superintendent David Ryan, who has known Perkins for more than 20 years, said he was always very “pragmatic” when approaching a problem. Perkins engaged with the community, Ryan said, and helped make the renovation happen.
“Even though his name is going to be on the café, and we would joke with him and say, ‘This is his cafeteria,’ he would be the first one to say, ‘No, this is the students’ cafeteria, my name is just on it,’” said Ryan.
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Perkins: ‘Proud, humble and thankful’
The 6,900-square-foot cafeteria, which also includes a new kitchen and a 4,200-square-foot outdoor patio for lunch and study groups, was completed last year. Prior to the expansion, Perkins said, an entire grade was not able to have lunch together due to space limitations.
“We had six different lunchtimes. Kids would start eating at 10 (a.m.) and every 25 minutes we’d have a new group come in,” said Perkins of the former cafeteria. “Now we can feed an entire grade at once.”
Perkins’ said he felt “proud, humble and thankful” for the honor.
One of Perkin’s proudest achievements, he said, was helping change the school’s educational philosophy from a junior high school model, where kids are treated like high school students, to a team-based personal approach model.
Perkins is keeping busy in retirement, working on projects with the Robinson Foundation and the Great Bay Charter School.
“I want to thank this community and SAU 16, I’m just so humbled that this happened,” said Perkins. “(I feel) tremendous pride in our community in the honor that was bestowed upon me.”
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Cooperative Middle School names cafeteria after Bill Perkins